Preparing for the Mental Side of the Game

As baseball and softball players we battle with the drive to have the perfect swing every time we step up to the plate. From tee work, to taking videos, and every drill in between, we become fixated on this notion of developing the "perfect swing". But what if there is no such thing?

How many times in our life have we seen a professional defy the lessons we have learned and crush a ball 400 feet into the stands? Or extend their hands and pull an outside fastball for an RBI double. These things don't happen because they were fixated on generating the perfect swing. This happens because they knew from the moment they stepped into the box, they were going to succeed.

The prime example is Vladimir Guerrero. More times than not Vlad was swinging at balls everywhere but in the zone, often being referred to as the best "bad ball" hitter in the game. But how did he do it? Was it excessive tee work with a one handed bat? Continued changes to his hand positioning and load? Maybe excessive amounts of front toss BP? Or was it Vladimir Guerrero not thinking when he was in the box and just doing? And having the thought in his mind that no matter where the ball was pitched he was going to succeed. What Guerrero learned, which is consistent with the greatest players in the world, is overthinking can be the death of a ballplayer and not thinking or using the mind in a positive way is the true key to success.

Now, this isn't to say working on the mechanics of the swing isn't important or taking rounds of front toss and BP don't truly help develop the swing. Rather, it is acknowledging that putting the same time and effort into the mental side of hitting is equally if not more important than the mechanics.

Majority of the time coaches and players neglect the necessary practice in the mental side of the game. Think about it. More times than not, players in practice take each swing without the thought of REAL consequences being on the line. Whether that be improving your stat line, succeeding with 2 outs and a man on second, or playing time being effected due to poor performance at the plate. Without these game variables in practice, no player can reach their true potential at the dish when thrust into a pressure situation. As baseball and softball players, we must recognize this and focus as much time in practice on a positive mental approach as we do on trying to create the perfect swing.

So next time you are in the cage taking BP, hitting off the tee, or working front toss, don't just go through the motions. Put some consequences on the line and pressure on yourself to perform at your highest level at all times. Whether you are alone or with a friend, you can practice being mentally tough and mentally prepared before, during, and after taking your hacks. The quicker you can become mentally stronger, the easier it becomes to succeed consistently!

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